Essex commuter towns: 11 of the best for London workers

PUBLISHED: 09:19 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:15 04 September 2018

Trains at Epping Tube Station (c) Matt Buck, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Trains at Epping Tube Station (c) Matt Buck, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Matt Buck

New research by TotallyMoney suggests Essex is one of the best counties for London commuter hotspots. Based on average house price, length of commute by train and the cost of an annual train ticket these are the best commuter towns in Essex

Out of 116 towns analysed in TotallyMoney’s study, Essex came out as the best performing county with Purfleet topping the overall rankings and four other towns entering the top 20.

If you work in London but don’t want to live in the capital then this will be a crucial resource for you.

1) Purfleet – overall ranking: 1

Journey time – 33 minutes

Average house price - £210,820

Annual train season ticket - £2,376

Served by Purfleet Station

Situated right on the River Thames and within the Thurrock Unitary Authority, Purfleet is best known for its reputation as a historical port and storage location for the British military. Bizarrely, it is also well-known for being home to one of Count Dracula’s estates in Bram Stoker’s novel.

Local attractions include the Lakeside Shopping Centre, Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve and the Military & Heritage Centre while you can stop in for a drink at The Fleet on London Road or the Circus Tavern, a location famous for previously hosting the PDC World Championships for over 15 years.

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2) Laindon – overall ranking: 6

Journey time – 34 minutes

Average house price - £264,050

Annual train season ticket – £2,852

Served by Laindon Station

Mostly lying within the town boundaries of Basildon, this ancient parish is located just north of Langdon Hills Country Park, a very popular area explored by walkers and nature lovers.

If you’re into golf then being based in Laindon will be a dream come true as around a dozen courses are located within a 15-minute drive from the centre. If you wish to be active without a club in hand then there are a number of green spaces and parks within easy walking distance of Laindon Station. For a top-quality dining experience you can’t beat Friern Manor and their ‘Intuition’ nights where student chefs create exquisite cuisine under the watchful eye of expert chefs.

3) Grays – overall ranking: 8

Journey time – 39 minutes

Average house price - £288,504

Annual train season ticket - £2,376

Served by Grays Station

Just down the road from Purfleet, Grays is the largest town in the borough of Thurrock and is just two miles away from the M25. Now could be the time to get into Grays as Thurrock council have recently acquired the funds to undertake regeneration of the town centre and Grays beach as well as to build to around 4,500 new homes.

School options are plentiful and varied – South Essex College recently built a £45 million campus in the centre of town – while there are plenty of good places to eat with New Delhi and Izgara Meze being two local favourites. For photo opportunities, head inland from the Thames to Chafford Gorges, Lion Gorge or Grays Chalk Quarry.

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4) Pitsea – overall ranking: 13

Journey time – 39 minutes

Average house price – £242,617

Annual train season ticket - £3,004

Served by Pitsea Station

This town in the east of Basildon district has gone through considerable commercial and urban regeneration in the past few years, making it an attractive prospect to the commuters who make up a large proportion of the area’s population.

Broken up into five sub-districts – Eversley, Northlands Park, Chalvedon, Pitsea Mount and Burnt Mills – the local area is dominated by the elevated 13th century Church of St Michael, the ideal spot from where to gaze out over the Essex countryside. After exploring the Wat Tyler Country Park and RSPB Bowers Marsh, drop into The Gun Pub for a good pint.

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5) Harlow – overall ranking: 19

Journey time – 34 minutes

Average house price – £313,525

Annual train season ticket - £3,344

Served by Harlow Town Railway Station or Harlow Mill

Built after World War Two to ease congestion and overcrowding in London, Harlow new town borders Hertfordshire and has gradually had different neighbourhoods grafted to it as the years have gone on. Despite the considerable urban regeneration, many of Old Harlow’s original buildings remain including St Mary’s Church in Churchgate Street and in 2010 Harlow became the world’s first ‘Sculpture Town’.

After learning about the history of the area at Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens, take your pick of The Dusty Miller, The John Barleycorn or The Rainbow and Dove, just three of the many country pubs located on the outskirts of town. There are a number of green spaces dotted around the town and we recommend exploring the enchanting Gibberd Garden or taking a walk alongside the River Stort through Terlings Park.

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6) Wickford – overall ranking: 24

Journey time – 38 minutes

Average house price - £325,458

Annual train season ticket - £3,700

Served by Wickford Station

This small town on the River Crouch has an ancient history going back 2000 years to Roman Britain and the site of a former villa is now home to Beauchamps High School. In more recent history, Wickford is noted as being the birthplace of naturism in the UK.

Since a controversial £125 million ‘Master Plan’ for redevelopment was revealed in 2004, Wickford has endured stop-start regeneration yet it is still evidently an incredibly attractive home for commuters. Top places to eat and drink include The Quart Pot out towards Runwell, Mem’s Kitchen for a no-frills eat and Wickford Charcoal & Meze for the best Turkish fare in town.

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7) Tilbury – overall ranking: 34

Journey time – 48 minutes

Average house price - £240,781

Annual train season ticket - £3,564

Served by Tilbury Town station

Best known as the town that is home to London’s principal port, the site of enormous container ships rolling up the Thames to drop anchor is a mainstay of the landscape seen by the area’s residents. Tilbury’s main tourist attraction is also based on the river: Tilbury Fort has protected London’s seaward approach since the 16th century and is still the finest example of its type in England.

If you and the family need energy after visiting the fort, head to either 10 Dining or The Dock Café. Perhaps unexpectedly, Tilbury has quite the connection to Hollywood as crews for ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Grimsby’ have all used the area for filming.

8) Benfleet – overall ranking: 39

Journey time – 44 minutes

Average house price - £355,099

Annual train season ticket - £3,408

Served by Benfleet Station

Contained within the Benfleet postcode of SS7 are South Benfleet, Thundersley, New Thundersley and Hadleigh, all locations within easy access of Wat Tyler Country Park and Hadleigh Castle, two of Essex’s favourite points of interest. The castle is situated within Hadleigh Park, a 500-acre space great for biking trails, water-based activities and views of the Hadleigh Ray.

With the SS7 postcode covering a pretty large area, there are plenty of places to eat: If you’re in South Benfleet you can’t beat Aspera, those in Hadleigh love Latino’s Restaurant & Tapas Bar while Pinaglis Tearoom is a popular spot in Thundersley.

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9) Witham – overall ranking: 42

Journey time – 42 minutes

Average house price - £280,966

Annual train season ticket - £4,428

Served by Witham Station

Located smack bang in between Chelmsford and Colchester, Witham is famous for being the place where renowned author Dorothy L. Sayers lived shortly before her death in 1957. It’s her literary legacy that provide two of the town’s most notable attractions as her former home is located on Newland Street while a statue commemorates her life and career just down the road.

There’s a good range of restaurants, tearooms and cafes in the area and we think you should try the Braxted Bakery – located out past the Brain and Blackwater rivers – Crepeaholic for, well, crepes and Turqoise for varied Turkish dishes. If you’re after a proper pint following a meal then try the Railway – a more central pub – or travel out slightly to find The Green Man or The Cross Keys.

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10) Billericay – overall ranking: 50

Journey time – 40 minutes

Average house price - £457,789

Annual train season ticket - £3,488

Served by Billericay Station

Outside of Essex this town near Hanningfield Reservoir may well be best known as the home town of the Shipmans in the popular sitcom ‘Gavin & Stacey’. To locals, however, it’s well regarded as a small town containing Georgian and period houses as well as several areas of historic woodland.

Such areas of countryside or parkland include the ancient 90-acre Mill Meadows, the charity-run Lake Meadows and the 175-acre Norsey Wood Local Nature Reserve which is popular with dog walkers. For some fine contemporary British dishes book a table at the Magic Mushroom and to sample Mediterranean cuisine in the comfort of Essex, go to Lo Monaco.

11) Rayleigh – overall ranking: 52

Journey time – 47 minutes

Average house price - £358,357

Annual train season ticket - £3,904

Served by Rayleigh Station

A town whose legacy has been forged by the number of ancient hunting forests that surround it – even its name means ‘a deer’s clearing’ in Old English – Rayleigh is a historic town just up from the areas using the Benfleet postcode.

Rayleigh Mount – a National Trust site where a castle used to stand – provides sweeping views across the Crouch Valley and is a must-see alongside the museum in the 200-year-old Rayleigh Windmill and the octagonal Dutch Cottage on Crown Hill. To try Essex’s iconic pie and mash visit the Star Café while Barringtons proudly labels itself ‘the home of burgers, booze and ribs’.

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All across Essex Life satisfaction in each commuter town was rated at 7.77 and we have also only featured towns that came in the top 60 of TotallyMoney’s ranking.

Check out the interactive tool below to see other commuter towns in Essex and the counties surrounding London.

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